Health starts in the gut

In our bodies there is a constant battle going on between good and bad bacteria. Common disorders, like colicconstipation and diarrhea, are often a sign that the bad bacteria has the upper hand. To achieve a healthy balance the good bacteria need to outnumber the bad with ten to one.

If bad bacteria for some reason start to exceed it may lead to an imbalance in the digestive system, called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis may cause problems like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, stomach pain and leaky gut. New research indicates that there probably is a strong connection between an unbalanced microbiota and diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Studies are even suggesting that these conditions can be prevented by taking better care of the microbiota.

Like in all aspects of life, balance is important and as Hippocrates said more than 2,000 years ago “All disease begins in the gut”. This is why it is so important to keep a good bacteria balance in your gut.

 

How bacteria support our immune system

80% of our immune defense is located in our gut and a balanced microbiota and enough of good bacteria is important for a well-functioning immune system. The good bacteria educate the immune system, making it ready to fight unwelcome invaders like bad bacteria and toxins.

 

Gatekeepers in the gut

The epithelial lining covers our gastrointestinal tract and works like a skin on the inside. The main task is to differentiate between what should be absorbed and what should not be let into our bodies. To its help it has gatekeepers, so called tight junctions. Their function is to let certain things like nutrients, vitamins and water through, and prevent things like toxins and pathogens, from passing through from your digestive system into your body and your bloodstream.

While a well-balanced microbiota makes the epithelial lining stronger, tighter and better performing, an imbalance in the gut damages the epithelial cells. Leaky gut is a condition caused by a damaged epithelial lining. The gatekeepers, the tight junctions, are letting things through that should normally not enter into the bloodstream. This may lead to several conditions and health problems, for example sepsis, inflammation, allergies and intolerances and digestive problems like IBS.

 

Problems today  

The fact that our lifestyle has changed dramatically over the last 50 years has definitely left its marks. Modern ways of living with increased urbanization and altered eating habits have resulted in an imbalance of our microbiota.

 

Our microbiota is negatively affected by the following

  • Usage of antibiotics and other drugs – antibiotics do not only kill pathogens, they also kill our good bacteria.
  • Obsessive hygiene – showering several times a day, using germ killing soap and detergents are depleting our microbiota.
  • Birth by Caesarean section – babies born by C-section don’t pass through the birth canal and are therefore not exposed to the desirable variety of good bacteria from their mother.
  • Poor eating habits – fast food, processed food, coffee and alcohol. It may taste good, but unfortunately your gut bacteria do not thrive on junk food, they need fibers, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Stressful living and lack of sleep – both stress and too few hours in bed may lead to changes in composition and reduction of microbial diversity.
  • Excessive exercising – while your workout at the gym is beneficial for your general well-being, professional athletes are often exercising at a level that harms their microbiota and puts their immune system under stress, making them more susceptible to infections.